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    Hello USA – Back Once Again

    Visiting the United States for Four Months

    Location: United States of America

    Our round two of the Grand Adventure has come to an end and we are returning to our home country of the United States for four months.  We head back out for round three in September.

    Meanwhile, dropping back in to the hectic and crazy USA is causing us some anxiety.  Living in the USA is

    My hometown of Gig Harbor

    fast-paced and a bit maniacal, and last summer we found our visit after 18 months away, a bit of a blow.  After living in places with no cars, no grocery stores, no English and sometimes no sanitary systems…arriving in the USA is both deja vu and a culture shock.

    We have grown accustomed to our travel way of life, amongst people who are different, cultures that are

    Our new Condo

    different, food that is different and language that is different. So adjusting back takes some effort when the USA seems a bit weird.  But I’m sure we will adjust.  It will be a relief to have Safeway, Target and a few other things like good gas prices, my hair dresser and my manicurist, a washer and dryer -things that seem such a luxury to us now.

    All that said we are looking forward to seeing our family.  And we are very excited to finally see the condo we bought last fall sight unseen.  This condo will serve as our home when we are in the USA for the foreseeable future as we continue to travel.  We are

    Seeing friends

    hopeful that it was a wise investment and are really looking forward to unpacking our things that have been in storage, some of them for nearly four years.

    We hope to have a bit slower pace this summer than last summer, when we tried to do and see too much.  Our priorities this summer are family, and working on the new condo.  Of course we hope to see some friends too and finding time to work out and get in shape is a goal.  Two short trips are in the works; Scottsdale Arizona and Big Fork Montana.  But other than that, we will stay close to Gig Harbor, family and our new condo.

    While in the USA we will still have a travel blog every Friday and a book review every Wednesday and I hope to post some blogs about the remodel of the condo.  We hope you will continue to follow and enjoy My Fab Fifties Life. We are so grateful to our faithful followers of our blog and our journey.

    Hanging out with family

    We depart the USA again on September 11th and you are invited to follow our round three as we head out for ten months with destinations that include China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman, Kenya, Mauritius, Zambia, Uganda, Israel, Cypress, Malta, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia, Czek Republic, Belarus, Lativia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland and Greenland.  Big plans.  We hope you follow along.

    Hey USA!  You look Fabulous!

     

     

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    North America Travel

    Miami Nice – Four Miami Neighborhoods to Visit

    Location: Miami Florida USA

    Miami is much bigger than I expected.  A shiny port city with lots of shiny expensive cars and beautiful people.

    I was pleasantly surprised – arriving without really any expectations.  It’s beautiful, but

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Ceviche at Jaguar

    also expensive.  There is a lot of traffic too, but we enjoyed our six days and explored as much as we could.

    I’m pretty sure I couldn’t afford to live here – but apparently a lot of people can.  The city is growing, with construction of both sky scrapers and roads all around.

    Four Miami neighborhoods to visit

    Cigar rolling Little Havana

    We stayed in a cute little cottage Airbnb in Coconut Grove – one of my favorite neighborhoods we discovered during our visit.  Here’s our list;

    Coconut Grove

    The Grove has a nice neighborhood feel, although mega mansions are hidden behind high walls and in immaculately landscaped gated communities.  But still it felt like a

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Cuban Sandwich Little Havana

    family place, although we never saw a public school – we did count six fancy private schools within the neighborhood we were staying.  Coconut Grove reminded me of Pasadena, with similar street shopping and restaurants and sidewalk cafe’s.  But it also has a beautiful harbor with hundreds of sailboats and yachts moored.   Coconut Grove also has a “low rent” district, but as a visitor you are likely to spend your time in the historic old town.                                                                             Favorite Spot – Jaguar Restaurant for delicious Peruvian ceviche and other specialities.

    Little Havana

    Historic and quit small Little Havana is easy to explore – pretty much all on one street,

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Art Deco south Beach

    Calle Ocho (8th Street).  Here you must try the amazing Cuban Coffee (similar to Turkish Coffee – sweet and strong) as well as delicious Cuban Food.  We ate lunch at Old’s Havana Cuban Bar and Cocina where we had a giant Cuban Sandwich and a delicious mango mojito.  There are some small shops and some kitschy Cuban souvenirs.  Stop to watch the old men playing Dominoes at Dominoes Park.                                                                                                                                                       Favorite Spot – Cuba Tobacco Cigar Company, family owned and operated by the Bellos Family for 100 years.  Here you can watch the art of hand rolling cigars.  Of course you can also buy cigars (many kinds and prices) if you are in to that.

    South Beach

    South Beach is every thing you imagined.

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    South Beach

    White sand, blue water, tropical pink lifeguard station and lots of sunbathers glistening in oil.  We spent several hours enjoying the sun and the warm waters of the Atlantic.  Quit the contrast to the Atlantic we watched a few weeks ago in Spain.  South Beach is home to a lot of celebrities, as well as high-end shopping, hotels, bars and restaurants.  Choose a street cafe and sip on one of the fishbowl sized tropical drinks and watch the people go by.                                                                                                                                 Favorite spot – South Beach’s famous Art Deco Architecture is worth a visit.  You can take a guided tour ($25) or just walk around on your own to see the wonderful collection, most very well-preserved, from the 1920’s era of glitz and glam.

    Wynwood Art District

    This reincarnated neighborhood is really cool.  You don’t need a lot of time here, or you can

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to bisit

    Wynwood Walls

    make it a full day because there are lots of restaurants, shops, art galleries and a couple of breweries.  This old industrial neighborhood used to be no mans land.  Until a few artists started opening up art space. It grew.  Someone painted a mural.  Then another.  Today nearly every paintable space in the small neighborhood is covered with art – more than 70 murals as well as sidewalk art and more.  It’s definitely unique, fun and colorful!                                                                                                   Favorite spot – the Wynwood Walls, an enclosed area of spectacular murals you can view for free.

     

    There is certainly more to Miami than these four neighborhoods – in fact a lot more.  We will need to visit again, to enjoy the beautiful weather, history, water and restaurant scene.  Miami nice.  Yes it is. Fabulous!

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    North America Travel

    Favorite Hiking & Cycling Trails in Puget Sound

    My Summer in Washington State USA

    Location: Puget Sound, Washington State, USA

    I’ve spent ten weeks in the beautiful state of Washington in the north-western United States.  This is where I grew up and where my family is.  It was fun being back, if only for a little while.  There were so many things I wanted to do and see, and I didn’t get it all done.  But I did manage to spend time enjoying my favorite hiking and cycling trails in Puget Sound.

    Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

    On top of Buckhorn pass

    I absolutely love cycling, and even though I started this sport rather late in life (48), I have embraced it.  I ride a road bike (‘Specialized’ brand) but prefer to ride on paved trails rather than out in traffic.  And there are two of my favorite trails less than an hour from where I have been staying;

    1. The Chehalis Western Trail is a fantastic trail on an old railroad bed, well maintained and very beautiful.  It is located south of Tacoma Washington beginning in Lacey.  You can start or stop at several locations along this 50-plus mile trail.  You can make the ride even longer by continuing
      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      Lunch break on the Chehalis Western Trail

      on the Yelm-Tenino Trail.  If you do the entire length of both these trails it’s more than 80 miles of paved bike path (with the small exception of about 100 yards of gravel). The trail includes views of Mount Rainier, bucolic farmland, the city of Olympia, and the Deschutes River. I was able to ride the Chehalis Western Trail three times while I was in Washington.

    2. The Olympic Discovery Trail is a spectacular trail on the Olympic Peninsula.  You can ride more than fifty miles round trip on this trial, including a newly added section to Discovery Bay.  There are a few sections of the trail that take you out to
      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      The Olympic Discovery Trail

      ride short distances on the highway, but for the most part the trail runs along the old highway and well maintained paved trails and bridges.  Highlights of this trail include crossing Dungeness River at the historic Railroad Bridge Park, riding through beautiful lavender fields in Sequim, enjoying views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and more bucolic farmland.  Simply spectacular and my favorite by far.  Unfortunately I only made it up to ride this trail once, but it was a beautiful day and I loved it.

    Both of these trails are for non-motorized vehicles only, and walkers are also encouraged.

    Speaking of walking, that is another of my favorite pastimes.  Last year when we walked the 486 mile Camino de Santiago from France to Spain we trained for more than a year.  Three months from now we plan to walk the 250 mile Camino de Santiago from Portugal to Spain and we have barely started our training!  So during these ten weeks here in

    Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

    Hiking on the Big Quilcene Trail

    Washington we have tried to get out and do urban hikes as well as two beautiful hikes on two of my favorite trails in the Olympic Mountains;

    1. Upper Big Quilcene / Marmot Pass Trail has a lot of elevation gain, but if you take it slow most anyone can do it.  And what does elevation gain mean?  Well of course it means spectacular views when you get to the top.  It’s about five miles to Marmot Pass and another steep scramble if you want to reach Buckhorn Ridge.  On a clear day you can see Seattle, all the Cascade mountains and for miles of the Olympic range as well.  The trail is well maintained, although you will need to walk through a rocky section where a slide has taken place.  This hike round trip if you go all the way to Buckhorn Ridge is 14 miles.  Or to Marmot Pass about 11 miles.  Be sure to have a Northwest Forest Pass (purchase ahead of time at many area locations).
    2. Lower Skokomish River Trail is one of my favorites.  We usually do a ten-mile round trip on this trail, but you can go further.  This well maintained trail takes you through
      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      Our lunch spot on the Skokomish River

      beautiful old growth forests and then along the Skokomish River for miles upstream.  There are a couple of places where you can get down to the river bed for a picnic or to camp.  The start of this trail is pretty steep, but once you get through the first mile it flattens out into a beautiful meandering trail where you hike through forests and cross creeks.  There is another climb but its easy and then again a flat and Favorite hiking and cycling trails in Puget Soundenjoyable walk from there.  This trail is rarely busy and I feel safe enough to walk this trail alone.

    So there you go, some of my favorite active pastimes in the Pacific Northwest where I have been since May.  We are now just days away from parting the USA again.  We will return to Washington for another visit next June.  Hopefully I’ll have more free time then, to cycle and hike around this spectacular state.

    Departing in T minus 11 days.

    North America Travel

    I Made That!

    Do It Yourself Glass Art

    Location: Silverdale Washington USA

    Making your own glass art project is surprisingly simple, fabulously fun and a great activity for kids young and old. Do it yourself glass art might be my new favorite craft.

    I spent a couple of hours this week at Lisa Stirrett Glass Art Studio in Silverdale Washington USA.  This was one of my Wednesday With Mom outings that I have been doing with my mom all summer long.

    Do it yourself glass art

    My mom getting creative Click and hold for larger image

    I didn’t know what to expect exactly, but I had seen some of the large and incredibly stunning works of art that come out of the Lisa Stirrett Glass Art Studio so I was looking forward to it.

    The glass studio offers classes (they were having a summer camp class while we were there) for both adults and children.  They also offer a DIY

    do it yourself glass art

    Our teacher Tara demonstrating technique Click and hold for larger image

    class.  You just call and let them know the day and time you want to come in to make your own creation.  Then they will have the supplies and someone on hand to guide you.  This is what I did with my mom.

    do it yourself glass art

    Mermaid phase one adding the first color Click and hold for larger image

    The sitting fee for the DIY is $8 and

    do it yourself glass art

    A wide selection of colors Click and hold for larger image

    you can make up to three pieces for this one sitting fee.  You then choose what you want to make and the costs for each project (cost covers glass, preparation, guidance and firing) varies depending on what you choose to make.

    Mom and I are both beginners so we started with something simple – small glass cutouts that could be used in a window or in a garden or as a ornament or maybe as a gift.  My mom chose a frog and I chose a mermaid. These each were $38.

    We learned how the process works – first you clean the glass carefully.  Then you chose your glass color that you will apply on top.  The glass is very fine sand-like granules and you sift it on to the different areas of your

    do it yourself glass art

    Lisa Stirrett owner and glass artist Click and hold for larger image

    piece.  The mermaid had a bit more detail than the frog.  I chose a teal blue for the mermaids body.  I then used a stencil to apply a glittery gold pattern over the top (the glitter was an additional $10).  Finally I put a silver glitter on her hair (you know, because I am the Grey Goddess and

    do it yourself glass art

    Mermaid phase II – all the color has been applied Click and hold for larger image

    all).  There are several tools you can use to clean up your mistakes, or to pinpoint a small area or to define a certain part.

    On the frog my mom chose to do a pale yellow-green lightly all over the body of the frog.  She then used larger glass chunks in a

    do it yourself glass art

    The frog warts and all ready for the kiln Click and hold for larger image

    bright pistachio green to make the frog look like he had bumps and warts.  The staff at the studio helped apply black paint for the frogs eyes.

    All of this only took about an hour and half.  We left our masterpieces behind to go into the kiln for the firing. Before the glass goes in the kiln it is placed on a soft paper that looks similar to quilt batting.  In the kiln it absorbs into the glass and gives it a multi-dimensional look.  I picked our pieces up several days later and it was amazing how different it looks after its been in the kiln.

    DIY Glass Art

    Mermaid Final product Click and hold for larger image

    Someday when I am back in Silverdale I would love to tackle a larger piece and really create something memorable so I can say I Made That!  In the meantime, if you are in the area I recommend checking out Lisa Stirrett Glass Art Studio to make your own project or to pick out a gift or something for yourself from their beautiful gallery.

    Another successful Wednesday with Mom!  Fabulous!

     

    North America Travel

    Seattle Ride the Ducks For A Quacking Good Time

    Location: Seattle Washington USA

    Full disclosure – I always thought this whole Ride the Ducks thing looked pretty silly.  Even though I love Hop On Hop Off busses and walking tours in cities around the world – I had never done a Ride the Ducks in any of Seattle Ride the Ducks the countries or cities I have visited. Until last week when I joined Seattle Ride the Ducks for a Quacking Good Time.

    Additional full disclosure.  My son was our Ducks Tour Guide (alias Kirk O’Bane).

    Seattle Ride the DucksIf it wasn’t for the fact that my son has joined the Seattle Ride the Ducks team as a tour guide, well, I probably would still be a Ride the Ducks virgin.  But of course we wanted to see our son in action so my husband and I took our two moms to Seattle for a day on the Duck.  So much fun.Seattle Ride the Ducks

    And seriously, my son was a great guide, but now that I have done a Ducks tour I am sure it would be awesome no matter who your guide is.  We didn’t stop smiling the entire time.

    Seattle Ride the DucksThe tour is high-energy and interactive with lot’s of cheering and clapping and singing along.  But of course it’s also interesting and informative.  We learned a lot about Seattle, its history and current rapid growth.  The tour included fun facts and figures, and interesting little known quirky bits about the city.Seattle Ride the Ducks

    It was particularly fun to get out on Lake Union and see the very Seattle lifestyle of living on a houseboat (Remember Sleepless in Seattle?) as well as seeing the Seattle skyline from the lake and watching a Kenmore Air floatplane fly low over us and land on the lake.

    The 90 minute tour is worth every bit of the $35 ticket price.  I highly recommend checking out Ride the Ducks of Seattle if you are a visitor or a local.  You will have a quacking good time.

    Be sure and ask for “Kirk O’Bane”.  Proud Mama.  Fabulous.

    North America Travel

    A Wednesday in Gig Harbor Washington

    Day 44 in the USA

    It’s day 44 in the USA, the longest we have stayed in one place in the last two years.  It’s starting to feel like home again.  But today on Day 44 we really played the tourist card and enjoyed a Wednesday in Gig Harbor Washington.

    Wednesday in Gig Harbor

    The beautiful Cushman Trail

    Wednesday in Gig Harbor

    Kayaking in Gig Harbor Bay

    We used to live in Gig Harbor, a beautiful town in South Puget Sound.  So we know it well.  And yet much has changed in the two years we have been gone, and it’s a lot of fun to get out and enjoy the community from a tourists point of view.

    I got up early this morning and decided to do my morning run ending at my dentist appointment.  I began running at the farthest North point on Gig Harbor’s Cushman Trail, a 6.2 mile paved trail that runs through the heart of Gig Harbor.  I love this trail for how peaceful it is.  As I ran four miles of the fairly hilly trail I saw bunnies, a deer, a squirrel and so many birds including a Pileated Woodpecker, a Flicker, an Osprey and a beautiful Goldfinch (the Washington State bird).  It’s a beautiful and peaceful trail and one of the best things about Gig Harbor.  A great start to my very full Wednesday.

    After my dentist appointment I walked back home via Soundview Drive, aptly named for the spectacular views of Puget Sound, Point Defiance in Tacoma and Vashon Island.

    Wednesday in Gig Harbor

    Colorful kayaks Gig Harbor Yacht Sales

    Wednesday in Gig Harbor

    A perfect day on the water

    Then we headed out to Kayak Gig Harbor Bay.  We usually spend Wednesday’s with our Moms, so Arne’s Mom joined us for a lovely hour and half on the water.  She had only kayaked once, and it was really a nice calm day so we sliced through the water and circled the bay on our kayaks we rented from Gig Harbor Yacht Sales.  It was very enjoyable.  Just like the Gondola ride I did with my Mom a couple

    Wednesday in Gig Harbor

    The Trolley at the Boat Yard

    weeks ago, getting out on the water is one of the best things to do when you are in Gig Harbor.  And kayaking gives you a work out too.

    Wednesday in Gig Harbor

    Making our project at AR Workshop

    Next we headed to lunch at the outdoor Trolley at the Boat Yard, a fun little spot right in the middle of the historic downtown. It wasn’t a hot day, but it was dry and comfortable so we ordered up and enjoyed our lunch on the outdoor picnic tables at this popular and affordable spot.

    Wednesday in Gig Harbor

    My canvas pillow in the works

    But our Wednesday in Gig Harbor didn’t stop there!  Later in the afternoon my Mom arrived at our cottage and we headed out to AR Workshop in downtown Gig Harbor.  This darling little shop is new to Gig Harbor and worth a visit.  AR Workshop is a do-it-yourself craft paradise where you can make wooden signs, canvas art and more.  My mom and I had a really great time making stenciled canvas pillows.  It took about two hours and anybody can do it, yet it turned out very professional looking.

    Wednesday in Gig Harbor

    All done!

    I hope to go back again to AR Workshop and make one of their wooden signs. It was a great activity.

    So that was my Wednesday in Gig Harbor – where you can enjoy nature, the harbor, exercise, lunch and arts and crafts all in one day – a perfect Wednesday or anyday.  Gig Harbor, Washington – Fabulous!

    Watch for more USA blogs coming soon.

     

    North America Travel

    A Get-Away to Anderson Island (Pierce County Washington)

    Travel USA

    Location: Anderson Island Washington USA

     

    A weekend getaway on Anderson Island

    Bucolic scenes

    I grew up less than thirty miles from Anderson Island, in the south Puget Sound area of western Washington.  But I had never been there until we did a weekend getaway on Anderson Island.

    Why did I wait so long?

    Anderson Island is a short 15 min ferry ride from the cute and historic waterfront city of Steilacoom, a stones throw from the famous Chambers Bay Golf Club (home of the 2015 US Open).

    A weekend getaway on Anderson Island

    Island Kayaking

    But Anderson Island is not a tourist destination. There are only two airbnb’s and vacation homes and a couple of bed and breakfasts on the island. One restaurant and one cafe. And just one small market. So don’t come here looking for nightlife or shopping.

    So why would you come here? Peace and quiet. Bird watching. Kayaking. Cycling. Walking and hiking.

    A weekend getaway on Anderson Island

    Little cabin in the woods

    We spent one night in a cabin owned by a friend of ours. The cabin nestled cozily in the woods on tiny Pine Lake (actually a pond). From the deck we watched osprey pluck trout from the water as well as families fishing and hauling in some big trout. Should have brought my fishing pole!

    We ate lunch at the Riviera Golf Club restaurant and enjoyed the views looking out over Lake Josephine, one of two pretty little lakes on this island of less than 40 square miles.

    A weekend getaway on Anderson Island

    Lunch on Lake Josephine

    On Friday we cycled the south end of the island through bucolic farmland dotted with old barns and views of the Puget Sound.  On Saturday we cycled the more hilly north end of the island and visited the historic Johnson Farm and local history museum.

    A weekend getaway to Anderson Island

    Cycling on the sound

    Although Anderson Island has no bike lanes, the traffic is so light it’s a safe and serene place to enjoy time on the bikes. It would be an easy day trip too. Leave your car on the mainland and ride your bike on the ferry. The Pierce Transit Ferry runs about once an hour, but sometimes less frequent.  See the schedule here.  The ferry can only take 55 cars, so if you are just going for a day on the bike, definitely leave the car in Steilacoom.

    A weekend getaway on Anderson Island

    Cycling the quiet roads

    We often talk about where we see ourselves settling once our Grand Adventure finishes.  I’m frequently torn between a more urban home where I can walk to grocery store and entertainment or a place like Anderson Island where nature is your neighbor and life is quiet and slow.

    Time will tell…either way I’m sure I’ll visit Anderson Island again where life slows down, neighbors wave and mother nature greets you every morning. Fabulous.